This small Facebook update is a rad win for gender equality

Facebook’s logo has come a long way since the site’s inception in 2004, when it was a silhouette of Al Pacino covered in binary code (yes, that happened). Over the years, the logo has been simplified to the site’s name; and just last week, the social media giant revealed that it had made some subtle tweaks to the logo’s font.

But aesthetics aren’t the only reason Facebook has been updating its site design recently. Earlier today, the social media giant announced that it had also made some small changes to its Friends and Groups icons — with some big implications for gender equality.

Here’s a before and after look at what’s changed. Notice anything different?

Previously, both the Friends and Groups icons on Facebook featured a woman’s silhouette in the background of a man’s silhouette. Now, the Friends icon features the man and woman side by side; and the Groups icon features a woman in the foreground with two men over her shoulders. Nice little update, Facebook.

In a blog post on Medium, Facebook design manager Caitlin Winner explains that the icons were updated in an attempt to portray men and women more equally.  “As a woman, educated at a women’s college, it was hard not to read into the symbolism of the current icon,” she writes. “The woman was quite literally in the shadow of the man, she was not in a position to lean in.”

(Winner explains that she also made some subtle updates to both of the silhouette’s hairstyles, in part because of what she called the original lady icon’s “Darth Vader-like helmet.”)

To make matters worse, when separated, “The iconic man was symmetrical except for his spiked hairdo but the lady had a chip in her shoulder,” as a result of how the two would be layered. She “assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration,” and decided to take matters into her own hands. After all, one of the mottos at the company is, “Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem” — which was also one of COO and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg’s lessons for graduates at a commencement address last month.

Winner originally intended to design a Friends icon where the silhouettes were on equal ground — but quickly realized it looked like a “two-headed mythical beast” and decided to put the woman in front. Here’s what it looks like in action.

While it may seem like a trivial detail, we think it’s awesome that Facebook not only welcomed the update, but also implemented it so quickly. It’s definitely a subtle change — but no less of a significant one. The fight for gender equality is still very much alive and well, and every tiny step towards closing the gap matters.

(Images via Facebook/Medium, HelloGiggles.)

Related stories:

You can now see who unfriended you on Facebook. #Drama

What happens to your Facebook when you die?

Facebook changed this dog’s life in the absolute best way possible